We are passionate about Architecture and the interrelated connection built spaces have with the living world, people, our activities and aspirations. A building must accommodate, protect, activate, and inspire. We strive to achieve these fundamental principles with everything we design. We are always excited at the chance to combine a creative intention to achieve practical, economic and enriching objectives.
Architecture & Aquariums
Crossley Architects are also passionate about the environment and the messages we can convey through our aquarium work. With over 20 years experience in aquarium design and construction Crossley Architects lead architectural and exhibit design for major aquarium and exhibition projects throughout the world. We have also been fortunate to collaborate with other great architects on a number of our international projects. On every project we also engage with great curators, marine biologists, aquarists and scientists working in very diverse fields to constantly redefine the possible and make each project extraordinary.
What is a good aquarium? One which touches the visitor’s heart. Aquariums are a fantastic family experience. We build aquariums to inspire people, young and old to care for nature through understanding its beauty, delicacy, complexity and power. Aquariums are fun, they are educational and for our clients they are financially rewarding. It is simple to say that if this were not the case far fewer aquariums would exist today.
Aquarium Specialist Architecture
As architects we design buildings but aquariums are much more than buildings. Aquariums have a life and story of their own. We don’t just aim to deliver our clients a great building. We deliver a great aquarium and this means it has taken on a life of its own. It can tell its own story. It inspires. Very often an aquarium becomes an iconic building of its locale. This can be partly due to its architectural character but more importantly it is due to recognition of its place and the way in which it embraces this, its local culture, heritage and traditions and relationship to the local environment and the larger connection to the world which have been made apparent and relevant.
Aquariums do this by developing a strong storyline. The aquarium storyline and exhibit proposal are developed into richly detailed individual tank designs to suit a range of selected species of animals.
We ensure the exhibit environments are designed and constructed to international standards and to suit the inhabitants and their species specific requirements. For major projects specialist curatorial consultants and qualified marine biologists are engaged to ensure highly individual requirements for unique behaviours and feeding protocols are incorporated.
It is essential the environments are also designed to be maintained by divers, and carefully integrated with the aquariums life support systems. The artificial environments are constructed to using only fish safe materials and methods to ensure there are absolutely no adverse impact to either water quality or fish health. The best quality urethane corals are used to replicate the natural reef habitats in intricate detail. Underwater scenery has unique construction requirements and requires techniques that have been developed over many years and projects to replicate extraordinarily realistic underwater scenes. Any underwater scene can be replicated including shipwrecks or other marine archaeological theme.
Initial exhibit sketches are developed through to detailed sculpted and 3D printed models for communication to the client and for use by the rockwork and theming artists during construction.
Acrylic Design and Construction
The viewing opportunities and viewing experiences offered by the latest acrylic panel technology is truly breathtaking. Tunnel based aquariums have been in existence for over 20 years with the first being Kelly Tarlton’s in Auckland New Zealand, which was opened in 1985.
Increasingly large viewing panels are now impressing aquarium visitors around the world and expanding the immersive quality of their experience. As aquarium architects the options available offer extraordinary opportunities to explore and interpret the marine environments we create.
Crossley Architects as Aquarium Specialist Architects through Aquatic Environmental Systems have recently completed the SEA Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa Singapore. Their Open Ocean Aquarium’s largest acrylic window is 36m long, 8.3m high, 700mm thick and weighs 252 tonnes and has recently taken the World Record from Dubai Aquarium. The project incorporates over 500 tonnes of acrylic panels in total, including 270° tunnels and a 6 metre diameter dome. The main panel was site bonded and annealed in a purpose built Bonding Room.
This world record will soon be superseded by another Crossley Architects designed project, Jiaolong Aquarium in Chengdu China. Their panel will be 40 metres long and 8.3 metres high.
Curved and domed panels also offer unique viewing opportunities into large marine environments and are commonly incorporated in the aquariums design. Each type of viewing scenario has its own unique design and construction challenges. We have the experience to design and co-ordinate complex acrylic design requirements.
The Aquarium Storyline and its Interpretation
Aquariums are both fun and educational at the same time. Good interpretation is essential to inform and entertain the aquarium visitors about the beauty and complexity of living marine environments and the importance of conservation.
In some aquariums the exhibits are developed around a unique central theme. For example, the theme of Osaka Aquarium is 'The Ring of Fire', which explores the Pacific region and the zone of tectonic and volcanic activity which defines it. Resorts World Sentosa the exhibit structure follows the great 13th Century Chinese explorer Zheng He’s journeys from China to the Arabian Peninsula to establish the ‘Maritime Silk Road’.
Different aquariums require different levels of interpretation, often with information being communicated in more than one language and via a variety of media. New technologies are being incorporated into interpretive options as they develop. Today’s aquariums use graphics panels, audio and video content, together with multi-media and augmented reality applications linked to Smart Phone and tablets via the Internet.
Crossley Architects design and incorporate interpretive options which provide amazing opportunities and linkages which extend the visitor’s aquarium experience.
Life Support Systems
The aquarium life support system may appear to be another water treatment plant, but in overall design and philosophy the aquarium LSS is an inherent part of the overall living ecosystem and fundamentally different from a conventional pool filtration plant. Aquariums require more than just water clarity. Water chemistry, system biology, component material, turnover rate and even in tank currents are all integral to the health of the system.
For LSS design and installation Crossley Architects work with project partners who have developed and manufactured an extensive range of bespoke LSS equipment including Foam fractionators, Biological Sand Filters, and other key life support components.
Crossley Architects designed aquariums have the LSS bound into the design from the initial concept. The relationship of key components of LSS plant and treatment tanks to the aquarium itself is fundamental to plant efficiency, operating cost and water quality. Aquariums are very energy hungry. Good aquarium design recognises this and develops accordingly to minimise the cost of ownership of the completed facility.
The real proof of the life support system is reflected in the abundance of the population of the aquarium animals, their health and behaviours.
The quality of reinforced concrete and applied waterproofing systems are of paramount importance to the overall durability and lifespan of the complete aquarium. It is a major item of works coordination for every aquarium project. We specify only the best quality fibreglass reinforced polymer as the basis of any applied waterproofing systems. It is essential that the system have crack spanning capacity, durability and be completely fish safe and non-toxic to the marine environment.
CA are working directly with a number of lighting manufacturers and actively pursuing the latest technologies from around the world for aquarium lighting efficiency and durability. The latest LED technology provides significant improvements in energy consumption and lamp life from previous options. Colour rendering from 3,000°K up to 10,000°K is available in any combination in the one fitting. With state of the art controls the same fitting will reproduce the full diurnal range of light in the exhibit from moonlight through sunrise, midday to sunset and back to moonlight.
See the Empyrean Lighting website for examples.
Smaller aquariums and Quarantine tanks are routinely fabricated from steel frame and FRP composite construction. FRP fabricated tanks use a time proven technique and have been in service for over 20 years.
Tanks of any size can be fabricated using this technique. The quarantine tanks for Grand Aquarium at Ocean Park in Hong Kong were each fabricated in 4 parts and are over 10 x 4 x 2m with a water depth of 1.8 metres.
Tanks may be prefabricated together with access and maintenance platforms and life support systems as a coordinated installation.
Crossley Architects have extensive experience in contract administration and inspection of construction projects and of course aquarium specialist works. The aquarium construction process, flow of trades, allowance for unusual construction tasks and attention to specific details during construction are critical for construction program and budget.
Excellent quality concrete construction is fundamental to aquarium construction and to the project’s long term durability. All aquarium specialist works have their unique particular requirements. For example life support systems require particular penetration details, acrylic installation in some cases requires site bonding and annealing and artificial environments are sculpted by artists in situ. These activities and many more make the coordination of specialist works with conventional construction the key to aquarium construction.
These images demonstrate the construction of the Open Ocean & Wreck Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.